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Kemba Walker Talks Return to Celtics Lineup After Recovering from Knee Injury

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistJanuary 17, 2021

Boston Celtics' Kemba Walker plays against the New York Knicks during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021, in Boston. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

Boston Celtics star point guard Kemba Walker returned to game action during Sunday's 105-75 loss to the New York Knicks after recovering from a knee injury that had kept him out of action to start the 2020-21 season. 

"It felt really good to be out there," Walker told reporters. "I kinda forgot how good it feels to be out there."

He was understandably rusty in his return to game action, finishing with nine points on 3-of-13 shooting to go along with four assists, three rebounds, three steals and five turnovers in 20 minutes. That didn't mean Walker didn't have some excellent moments.

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Kemba is back and throwing no-look dimes 👀 https://t.co/mDD0OZ7FBk

More importantly, however, was that Walker felt comfortable during the game.

"I'm pain-free, which I haven't been for a very, very long time," he told reporters. "It's kind of a weird feeling. I've been hurting for a very long time."

Tim Bontemps @TimBontemps

Kemba Walker says all he could think about in the bubble was his pain in his knee. He said that today he was only thinking about making his moves, and that when he made those moves today he felt “joy” for the lack of pain that went along with them.

NBA TV @NBATV

“I didn’t see any hesitation in terms of him trusting his body.” @Candace_Parker & @IsiahThomas break down Kemba’s season debut #GameTime https://t.co/JuWvh95mVQ

Walker, 30, is a key figure for the Celtics. He averaged 20.4 points and 4.8 assists for the Celtics in his debut season, fitting in with players like Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown far more seamlessly than Kyrie Irving had before him. 

He comes back to a team where he'll likely be the third option on offense, however. Tatum (26.9 PPG) and Brown (25.8 PPG) have been superb for the 8-4 Celtics and are both younger than 25. They are the future for the Celtics, but they are proving to be a dynamic duo in the present as well. 

Tom Westerholm @Tom_NBA

Feels like it's pretty important for the Celtics that Jaylen doesn't fall back into a secondary scoring role with Kemba back. He's a primary guy now.

Walker has made his money as a dynamic scorer during his career, though he showed a willingness to take a step back offensively last season, going from 20.5 shots per game with the Charlotte Hornets in 2018-19 to 15.9 shots per game last year, his lowest mark since the 2014-15 season. 

Those Hornets teams needed Walker to carry the offense. These Celtics do not, and Walker appears to know it.

"He's killing it. I don't want him to think that just because I'm back that he can't keep killing it, because he can," Walker said of Brown. "That's what I'm here for. I'm here to encourage him just to be great, which he's been all year. I just want to try to add to it. That's it."

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